The lessons from my fall and the resulting handicap continue to teach me lessons. Probably the most profound realization is the way strangers look or don’t look at you when riding in a wheelchair. You get a navel-level view of the world, and as you glance up at the passing individuals it invites an interaction by default. Some turn away and ignore you, some frown or grimace, others smile kindly with a knowing look. Going forward, I promise I will smile at every person I see in a wheelchair! How true this must be for older people. Our culture is not kind to Elders. They become invisible or even degraded. In other cultures, Elders gain importance as they grow older. Family members will bow to show their reverence. It is obvious that part of the negative reaction is facing the fact that we are all aging. It might seem like a frightening glimpse into the future. Aging is unavoidable unless you die at a young age, and no one is choosing that one. Age is really our friend! Our entire culture is in denial about aging. Even advertisements for retirement living typically show pictures of folks that look fifty and have a little grey hair. No one is ever in a wheelchair inviting you to join the fun!
Speaking of feeling invisible, have you sat facing backward in an elevator? It reminds me of being a dunce in the corner of a classroom. It makes you feel nonexistent and it is awkward if not impossible to join the conversation. All of these lessons point to one thing: I have the choice to embrace the situation and be grateful or be angry and depressed. We always have the choice between life and death, between a positive or a negative response. I don’t want to be naive, but life is full of falls both physical and emotional. Certainly, it takes lots of love and support from those around us, but the starting point is a choice we make to embrace our circumstances and be the best we can be. It is not easy, but really what other option do you have? This fall has cleared a path for me to see the harshness of life, but also the grace that is ready to pave the way to a more enriching life. For that I say, “Thank you.” Join the conversation at www.justnowoldenough.com.